Keystone pipeline on agenda as Kerry, Canadian minister to meet

“Secretary Kerry felt very strongly that our Canadian neighbor and ally should be first,” she said, and noted that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met recently with her Mexican counterpart.

“We are doing some nice bookends here in the hemisphere,” Nuland told reporters at a briefing.

On Keystone, Canadian officials are pressing for State Department approval of TransCanada Corp.’s cross-border pipeline to bring oil from Alberta’s oil sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries.

Kerry faces competing pressures.

In addition to Canadian officials, major business and oil industry groups and a number of unions are pressing hard for approval, while environmentalists oppose the project.

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling is holding a meeting Thursday afternoon with the State Department’s Kerri-Ann Jones, who is the department's assistant secretary for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs.

“Mr. Girling is in Washington, D.C., meeting with media and policymakers to discuss energy policies, and TransCanada's role in meeting growing U.S. energy demand. Mr. Girling will also meet with the U.S. Department of State officials as a part of TransCanada's continued focus on permitting the Keystone XL project,” TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said.

— Julian Pecquet contributed to this report.